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‘Mad Mike’ Hoare, the Kolkata-born Irish mercenary who hijacked an Air India plane in 1981

Michael Hoare, who died Tuesday in Durban, gained notoriety as a mercenary — world’s second-oldest profession.

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New Delhi: Michael Hoare, known as “Mad Mike” has passed away in South Africa aged 100. He gained notoriety as a mercenary after his campaign in Congo where he fought against the communist forces who had gained control of nearly two-thirds of the country. His career came to an end after a failed coup in Seychelles.

Mercenaries — the world’s second-oldest profession

A mercenary is a soldier whose motivation in a conflict is profit. The sole motivation of profit changes the very nature of war in which they are involved. Regular soldiers act according to the interests of their nations, but mercenaries can do otherwise.

Wagner group is a Russian organisation acting for Russian interests in Africa. Intelligence agencies accuse the group of hiring locals as mercenaries. According to the BBC, there are about 2,500 mercenaries in Syria hired by the Wagner group.

Mercenaries, who are often referred to as the “world’s second-oldest profession”, have been part of the history of war since its beginnings. One of the most notable mercenary commanders in the ancient world was Memon of Rhodes. He was the commander of the Greek mercenaries during the invasion of the Persian empire by Alexander the Great. The Greek mercenaries were used to cut the supplies of Alexander’s army which were invading the Persian Empire. Although the mercenaries were defeated and the Persian Empire fell, the Persians had demonstrated how mercenaries could change the nature of war. Soldiers could be hired far away to fight against their own country.

Life of Mike Hoare

Mike Hoare was born in Kolkata to Irish parents. At age 20, Mike Hoare joined the British armed forces and fought in Burma and India during the second world war. After the end of the war, he completed training in accountancy and migrated to South Africa where he ran Safaries. He was hired by European forces in Congo where he led two separate white mercenary groups. His first mercenary action was in Katanga, a province which was trying to break away from Congo and second against the Simba Rebellion group which had taken control of large sections of Congo. These successful campaigns helped him rise to fame. The film, The Wild Geese, for which Hoare was hired as a technical adviser, was based on his campaign in Congo.

In 1981 Hoare tried to overthrow the government of the Seychelles. Hoare and his group of 50 mercenaries disguised themselves as rugby players, and hid AK-47s in the bottom of their luggage, as he explained in his book The Seychelles Affair. The group landed in Seychelles planning a coup against the self-declared prime minister. By mistake one of the mercenaries went in the “something-to-declare” line at customs at the airport and ended up revealing his ammunition. After a series of firing at the airport, the mercenaries managed to negotiate a ceasefire. An Air India plane which landed during the firing was hijacked by the mercenaries and taken to South Africa. In the Aftermath, 49 of the 50 mercenaries were convicted. Hoare was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for hijacking and spent 33 months in prison until his release after a Christmas Presidential amnesty.

Also read: The rise of Pegasus and why India should know the problem with hiring ‘internet mercenaries’


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